Jackie Skelly Fitness: Club Membership Rip-off: Popular Complaints

 

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Irish Times, Pricewatch – Taking issue with Jackie Skelly (original page here)

October 23, 2008 @ 3:38 pm | by Conor Pope

A Ray Darcy listener got in touch with me about Jackie Skelly Fitness. It’s a long story but does, I think, illustrate a real problem with gyms in Ireland and customer service in general. This chap moved to the US six months ago and before he left he filled out a cancellation request form at the fitness centre in Applewood Swords.

He handed the form and waited a week before calling to see had they’d any news. He was told it was still in the review process but three days later he got a call confirming his membership had been cancelled, so off he went.

Then not long ago, he got phone call from his dad saying he’d opened his bank statement and noticed €65 a month was being taken by Jackie Skellys. “I called the gym and someone in the admin department told me that she’d received no letter and had no record of my cancellation,” he says.

“Since then no-one has called me back. I have called so many times, I have the call records and all I get is “she’ll call you back” she’s on another call” she’s off today” “her computer is down” . I’m not trying to scam anyone out of money I just want the money that was taken out of my account put back. I’m sure if I owed them money it would be a different story.”

I have to say I empathise with him on Jackie Skelly’s reluctance to call him back because I’ve been following this problem for several weeks now and I have made many, many phone calls to Jackie Skelly’s and never once got a callback. Just as I was beginning to despair of every hearing back from them, they got in touch with me late last week.

They told me that our listener had been a member since December 2005 on a minimum 12 month contract. With this type of contract you’re obliged to stay for at least 12 months and then if you wish to cancel your membership at any stage after this you are required to give two months notice to the gym in writing by filling out a cancellation form at the club, writing a letter or sending an e-mail.

A spokeswoman said the gym requires it in writing “so that we always have a record of the cancellation”.

Hmm.

She said the first recorded contact they have with our listener was the end of August when he discovered his direct debit payments were continuing to come out of his account.

She said there was no record whatsoever of the cancellation form he completed and the phone call he received. I was told cancellation of an account and a confirmation call are always noted on the member’s account. She said there were no such notes on his account and the cancellation form was not found his paper file.

She assured me that they did a thorough search for this cancellation request by looking at two months either side of the date that he said he cancelled on just in case his cancellation was filed incorrectly but there was no cancellation request found.

Hmm.

The spokeswoman said she was “sympathetic to his situation but as a company we simply cannot refund these type of requests when we have to record either on his paper file or on his record on our computer system”.

It’s interesting because it seems that the old concept of the customer being always right is not something that holds much sway in Jackie Skelly’s. A situation like this quickly turns into a he said she said thing. He says he filled in the form, they say they can’t find it so won’t give him his money back. I will leave it up to you to decide who to believe.

The statement went on to say that “as we now have an unhappy ex member we would like to offer 3 options of compensation:

One year’s Platinum membership for him – this would allow him use of all clubs. It is of course entirely useless to him as he is in the States. They also offered him a year’s platinum membership for a person he nominates – again, if I was him, I’d not be impressed with this offer.

The third option is one year’s membership as a prize for a charity of our listener’s choice I am told this would be to the value of €852.It’s a nice offer. Now if I was running the gym what I would do would be give him his money back – it’s not that much, €300 or so, and give one year’s membership as a prize for a charity of our listener’s choice.

They concluded by apologising to him for any inconvenience caused said they would “love to welcome him back as a member to enjoy all the benefits of health & Fitness.

I think there is a broader issue involved here and that is the whole nature of gyms and how they do business.

Generally speaking I think people should be very, very careful when it comes to joining a gym and there are certain questions which should always be asked before any money is handed over or any financial details are given.

Many gyms sign you up for a full 12 months and making getting out of the contract next to impossible if not completely impossible – so that is the first question that should be asked if you are considering joining a gym.

Another point, and one that a lot of people aren’t aware of, is that when the initial 12 month contract comes to an end, some gyms stipulate that they will automatically renew the contract on a rolling basis unless you contact them in writing at least 10 days before the initial contract expires to cancel. If you don’t do that then you have to give them two months notice before you can leave – now you do get use of the gym for that period but it is like you’re trapped in the gym. I think that is particularly sneaky. And I would never join a gym that had such a policy.

When it comes to payment, although you may be paying by direct debit, some gyms make you give credit card or laser card details as well and have it in their terms and conditions that they can debit money from either should you fail to pay your direct debit or try to cancel it in dispute. This is buried in the terms and conditions and can be very hard to find.

Some gyms – and Jackie Skelly’s is one of them – employ debt collectors. I know this because they are advertising for them on their website – you’d have to wonder about that. Incidentally a lot of the time gyms threaten people who haven’t paid with debt recovery agencies and suggest non-payment may affect credit ratings – but this isn’t actually the case as gyms are not registered with the Irish Credit Bureau.

The gyms will say that they are covered by their terms and conditions and say are very upfront about what they are offering and to a point this is true. But I have to say that the small print is ridiculously small. And of course some gyms are worse than others. I went in search of a couple of examples. Crunch Fitness is a Dublin chain and here is there contract. The size of the text on the contract is normal, there might be 20 terms and conditions and it is easy enough to read.

Jackie Skelly’s on the other hand is ridiculous. You’d need a microscope to read it, the text is so small. And there are so many terms and conditions that anyone reading through them all would deserve a special prize.

 

21 Comments »

 

1.October 29, 2008, 5:05 pm

It’s all been well documented before: http://www.jackieskellymembership.com/ He is not the first to complain of this, nor will he be the last. When is the NCA going to step in and do what they’re supposed to!!!???

Comment by John

 

 

2.October 30, 2008, 9:45 am

I joined JS (Applewood) after my 2nd child was born and sadly lost interest after a couple of weeks (as you do!) and quite frankly I needed to adjust my outgoings.

In any event I left it for a few weeks before I did anything about it. Eventually I rang them and told them that my circumstances had changed and that I had to cancel my subscription to them as I couldn’t afford it anymore. I told them that I hadn’t been to the gym for a good few weeks. They told me I would have to pay an extra 2 or 3 months membership (can’t remember exactly) which I reluctantly agreed to do. I gave her my laser card details.

A few minutes later they rang me again as they hadn’t taken down my details correctly and needed them again. By that stage I had had a few minutes to think about what I had just agreed to and was quite angry about it.

I told her that I felt they were being extremely disingenuous as I could have easily cancelled the direct debit but I instead showed them some courtesy by ringing them first to let them know. I told them I thought that it was unfair of them to ask me to pay for extra months as I was in financial difficulty as I told them. I said I was prepared to pay 1 extra month only. The girl on the other end said “Ok, ok then” to quote her, and I gave her my details again. Shortly afterwards I did indeed cancel my direct debit to them. I never heard from them again and “all” they took was 1 extra month.

At no stage did they ask me to put anything in writing to them or sign a cancellation form. Luckily for me I must have got this girl on a bad day (or a good day whichever).

They would have had my details on file and would have seen that I work for one of the largest solicitors firms in the country (although am not a solicitor myself) so I am not too sure if this might have any bearing on the outcome . . .

Comment by B

 

 

3.October 30, 2008, 12:10 pm

i’ve been caught on similar incident myself once, when they claimed they didn’t receive my letter of notification. towards the end we worked out an agreement where i paid one of the two months. i wasn’t happy, but it was going nowhere and better that than 2 months fees… needless to say, i’m never going back to them, ever.

Comment by leshanne

 

 

4.October 31, 2008, 1:17 pm

The trick here is to send them their cancellation letter by registered mail. OK, it costs you a little more, but you have proof of sending, which is all that is required. With registered mail, you can also lookup online when the letter was signed for and probably the name of the person who signed too.

Gym subscriptions are nasty things… but this is how most of them make their money.

Comment by Alan

 

 

5.November 11, 2008, 7:11 pm

I have only had the same thing happen to me this week. My 12 months were up in August so I went in to them in July to arrange the cancellation of membership. The lady told me she would pass on my details to the admin department. I called back later in the week to ask if it had been processed. She asked if I filled in a cancellation form, I said no and so went over to fill it in. Job done, I knew they were going to take money for 2 months but figure there is nothing can be done about that. In october they still are taking money from my account so I ring and the woman assures me that was the last payment due. Then this week I get a later saying I owe a years membership for cancelling my direct debit! THEY were the ones that cancelled it! I rang them up and the woman told me she had no record of my cancellation and technically I owed them the five hundred odd quid! Suffice to say I got annoyed and she said she believes me and would write it off. I asked that she remove my details from their system also as I do not wish to be contacted by them again. It was only when I hung up the phone that I kicked myself for not getting a name. I will ring again tomorrow to confirm that everything is ok and request an email while I am on the phone that this is the case! Definitely as Alan said, registered post and keep a copy of the cancellation form.

Comment by Bof

 

 

6.November 16, 2008, 2:16 pm

Why are people so naieve and nice to these people at Jackie Skellys …and as for the Consumer Agency they have done nothing about them. Their contract is rubbish and doesnt stand as legal anything…utter nonsense. . .

Comment by Rosemary

 

 

7.November 26, 2008, 2:32 pm

I’ve had troubles with Jackie Skelly (Rathfarnam) too. I went for the introduction etc and the salesmanoutlined all the benefits etc and included somethhing that made me sign up. He told me if I was not happy with my membership for any reason, I could cancel it within the first 2 months. Great, or so I thought. About 4 weeks in, and I wasn’t enjoying the gym. It just couldn’t compare with Total Fitness in Sandyford, so I rang the sales guy who told me he’d contact the admin department, and that they would get back to me. Needless to say they didn’t. So I rang and asked for them. The lady told me that I could only cancel within 2 months if I had been using it 2-3 times a week, in contradiction of what the salesman said. Needless to say, I cancelled the direct debit anyway, and also my credit card so they couldn’t charge it either. Rang the manager a week later, and he told me that the cancellation deal agreed verbally with the salesman was irrelevant and that it would not be honoured because it wasn’t written down.

I wrote to him confirming my cancellation and never received a reply. About a month after, I got a demand for teh entire years membership. It went in the bin and 5 months later I haven’t heard from them since. Bottom line – don’t go near Jackie Skelly Fitness. Or if you do, tape your conversaiotns with the salesman! The NCA were not much help either…

Comment by jllunt

 

 

8.December 9, 2008, 5:04 pm

i have had noting but trouble with the Jackie Skellys Gym since i joined wish i had looked at this before i joined . . . who in the right mind would sign a 12 month gym membership this was never explained to me . . . NEVER again…

Comment by nATALIE

 

 

9.December 17, 2008, 2:33 pm

BEWARE! Members of Jackie Skelly Fitness Newbridge, Co Kildare. Did you know it is not legal to ask, as they did, members to join before the gym opened July 2008 and sign up to a payment plan in advance. This is an erosion of the consumer’s right to know exactly what they are paying for (whether goods or services). See Prim Time Mon, dec 15, 2008…..some serious questions to be answered here. they regulated taxis….about time they regulated gyms . . . Avoid jackie Skelly . . .

Comment by mary fitzpatrick

 

 

10.December 22, 2008, 9:50 am

Like hundreds (yes hundreds!) of other people, I too have been caught by the Jackie Skelly Fitness three card trick. (so was one of the people featured on the recent Prime Time Investigates programe on RTE 1)

I met a salesman from the gym at the Pavillions Shoping centre Swords in late May 2008.

He was offering membership for €59 a month. I explained to him that I may be relocating so annual membership would not suit me. He said it was no problem, and that I could have monthly roll over member ship and cancel with one months notice.

When we signed the contract he didn’t tick the box for annual membership so I felt no need (silly me) to look for the size 6 font terms and conditions that stated that there is only 12 month contracts (+ two months cancellation notice) regardless of which box is ticked/unticked.

After hearing about this scam and discovering that I had been put on a 12 month contract that I couldn’t get out of, I told the manager that the sales person had lied to me and tricked me so that he could get a sale.

The manager admited that the sales person may have lied, but it didn’t matter. I had signed the contract. . . It was obvious that she was well versed in what to say and how to handle the situation.

This has happened to dozens of members I have spoken to. The terms and conditions were not on the page I signed but there was a tiny clause on the contract stating that I agree to the terms and conditions. To see these Terms + Conditions, I would have had to ask a member of staff to get them for me or check them myself on the compnay’s website.

It’s a clever and deceitful way they have of doing business. They also keep loosing any correspndance you have with them so each time you talk to a member of staff you are starting your query all over again.

Anyway, lesson learned. I will probably never do any transaction by direct debit again because reading pages of terms and conditions for each financial contract one enters would mean none of us wuld get any work done. I like to trust the companies I do business with.

I paid out the remaining months of annual subscription (less a discount I negotiated) with a member of staff, so I was well out of pocket for the experience, but I never again wanted to use the gym.

I just want to alert people to what they are up to and it may be of interest to you given that ye had a feature on this company on a recent live line program.

If you want to research this further log onto www.askaboutmoney.com and search for Jackie Skelly. You will find dozens of similer tales. Those who didn’t pay the rest of their fees like I did have been hounded by debt collectors. This proves beyond doubt the nature of thier business model.

Comment by Paudie

 

 

11.January 7, 2009, 12:51 pm

Well done to Ben Dunne and co…they are an example of how a truly good effective model works…no nasty tricks, no debt collectors delivering pathetic notes…just the real deal….gyms at good value and a good service.

Comment by Maire

 

 

12.January 9, 2009, 11:36 am

I agreed a cancelation fee with Jackie Skelly to terminate my contract in December. The fee was €177 and I got in writing from the gym that once this payment was made, no more direct debits would be taken from my account. This payment was taken from my account on December 27th. Jan 5th 2009 arrived and Jackie Skelly continues to take the €59 euro a month from my card, even though they agreed my account was closed. Contacted my bank to get a charge back from my card and they told me that Jackie Skelly do this all the time., A loop hole in visa card regulations allows them to use the authorisation from the previous months Direct Debit and send through a direct debit for the next month. I have the email correspondance with the gym that proves all the above happend. I am disgusted and will never again give my credit card details for direct debit. Lesson learned. My bank have told me that I will get the money refunded.

Comment by Padraig

 

13.February 10, 2009, 12:10 pm

Just cancel your direct debits with your banks. . . their contracts are a load of rubbish. Cancel with the banks and let them waste their time and money chasing you. I have had the same trouble with them.

Comment by Clare

 

 

14.March 5, 2009, 9:12 pm

I stopped using them 10 months after i joined, gym was crap, couldnt have a swim because they were always running swiming lessons, i missed 2 payments because i get payed by cheque i was going to and i did put the money the first sec i had the chance, nxt day ringin me lookin for there money etc etc, so i said feck this, i decided to leave just stop the direct debits, i wasnt told it was a 12 month contract, im now getting letters like ” if you chosse to ignore this SITUATION this will happen to you lol, a situation is when a plane gets hijacked, not when you owe a gym money for 2 months you were never there…. needless to say the letters have gone into the bin and they can sing for there money

Comment by clarkie

 

 

15.March 19, 2009, 7:56 pm

I used to work for the company as a debt collector, so most of the letters that u have received probably have my name at da bottom but seen as im not in da company anymore, i tell u this they don’t sent anyone after use, its just admin sending letter on a mail merge. they’ll send about 3 letter in da month and then they’ll stop den u might get one 2 months later but then thats it, well apart from that they ring u a few times da month u cancel but thats it. da company cant afford to bring everyone to court or they’d be in da paper everyday and it would make people not want to join.

Comment by Karen

 

 

16.April 6, 2009, 1:15 pm

I can’t believe how dim some people can be. ! All he had to do was contact his bank and cancel the direct debit. Easy as ! That way the gym can’t keep taking the money. I don’t know, some people …………………

Comment by Dee

 

 

17.May 7, 2009, 4:51 pm

It is frightening the number of comments about Jackie Skelly gym. I am only surprised that people ignore them and continue to join even though there is a credit crunch on. It is no wonder Jackie Skelly is expanding and opening more branches. People have only themselves to blame.

Comment by EAMON

 

 

18.May 26, 2009, 4:54 pm

I joined Jackie Skelly and quickly figured out I made a mistake. When joining I told them I need to freeze my membership over the summer for 4 months and they told me “No problem, you are free to do so. Just give us a notice”. When I informed them to freeze my membership they told me that there is an “ADMINISTRATION FEE” for 45 EUROS. Well, I hope that freezing a membership is not a rocket science or is it as per JK terms and conditions. More than that, the extreme bad customer services for the staff called “JENNY”. She’s totally unfriendly.

Don’t do the same mistake. Don’t joint JS and don’t believe whatever they tell you. The NCA should step up and give them a real warning.

Comment by Kamel Ben Madhi,

 

 

19.July 2, 2009, 10:58 pm

It is not enough to cancel the direct debit at the bank as i found out today. Having cancelled my membership last month (after 12 months) I also cancelled the direct debit at the bank. Well they presented the direct debit yesterday and the bank honoured it. According to my bank they (JS) must submit the direct debit cancellation. I argued this with the bank insisting they are acting on my behalf with my money but apparently this is not the case, they act on behalf of J. Skelleys and as technically i am still in contract with them, they have every right to take the dd.

Comment by Sandy

 

 

20.July 17, 2009, 1:16 pm

I have been a member of Jackie Skelly for 6 weeks i’ve only had one meeting with a Personal trainer. I was guaranteed results in twelve weeks. I was down there Monday and my car was broken into and my handbag stolen(my handbag was out of view to people unless they actually made a point in looking for it). Another womans car was broken into, and i’ve been informed that there’s been about 20 cars done in their car park over the last few months. They have no CCTV no security, no warning signs. And now for the best part they are saying it’s not a reason for cancelling. Sorry let me rephrase that Teresa from Customer Service quoted “Whatever, that’s not a valid reason for cancelling.” It’s absolutely disgraceful they reckon i’ll have to pay for the rest of the year.

Comment by Danni

 

 

21.September 23, 2009, 5:43 pm

I lived in the US for 7 years and the gyms there are very like JS. JS obviously uses US gyms as a model. What the sales people promise verbally is always different to what the reality is.

However, for those people who sign up willingly to a 12 month contract and simply decide “oh, I’m too lazy so I’ll cancel”, why is it that its ok to cancel a gym membership but the same people wouldn’t dare cancel a 12 month contract with their mobile phone or cable provider? People seem to think gym membership should be free, not realising that gyms are one of the highest costing businesses to run. As an example, how much do you think a commercial treadmill costs? Wrong!! They cost from around €8,000 to €9,500 for ONE. So, either read the terms and conditions of the gym you are joining and make sure all communications with them are in writing OR don’t join a gym. A tip is that most gyms that have sales teams (the US model) see you as a sales commission and will say anything to get you to join – so go to “non-brand” gyms where you will most likely meet the manager on a regular basis.

Comment by David